With high tension over college applications, the rejection wall has become a cathartic — though sometimes controversial — rite of spring on many high school campuses across the country.
Described as feeling like a consoling "group hug" by one recent Gunn graduate, the rejection wall was absent from its traditional quad-facing location at Palo Alto High School last year.
It will return this year, student leaders say, but in a more regulated format.
The term "rejection wall" had some "negative connotations that weren't really appropriate," Senior Class Vice-President John Brunett said.
"This year it's not called a 'rejection wall' but a 'colleges-missing-out wall,'" Brunett said.
"We want to focus on the positive aspects — that people in a very stressful environment in a very stressful school can see that it's OK to fail and sort of take some pride in that, have a community-life feeling."
Rather than taping up their own rejections, as in the past, Paly students are asked to drop off their rejections, with names blacked out, at the Student Activities Office, and others will handle the posting.
Brunett said the new plan — as well as the absence of a rejection wall last spring — represents a "group decision" on the part of student leaders and administrators.
"A common description by students for colleges rejecting them is because they're not good enough, and that's not the case. It's because it didn't work out; they don't have room for that many qualified people.
"So I and the rest of (student government) and the administration wanted this phrasing because it's really supposed to be a positive experience, and we want kids realizing that rejection isn't the end of the world."
Brunett said he hoped students would begin submitting rejections by the end of this week, and that the wall would be launched next week, after fliers from the school's career fair are taken down.
"Outraged" by the mysterious absence of Paly's rejection wall last spring, editors of the student newspaper The Campanile mounted their own smaller version, taping rejections facing out on the windows of the journalism classroom, Brunett said.
"But the windows are tinted and Campanile was on the outskirts of the campus, so not a lot of people saw it and not a lot of letters were posted," he said.
In a Feb. 25 editorial, The Campanile called for reinstatement of the traditional rejection wall.
"With all the stress and pressure to succeed embedded in life at Paly, the rejection wall is a simple yet effective way to show students that it is okay to fail," The Campanile said.
"It is easy to attend Paly and assume that every other student is going to an Ivy League school, but the rejection wall proves that this is not the case.
"Many seniors feel alienated and alone when rejected from their first-choice schools, but the presence of a rejection wall unifies the senior class and shows each student that they are not alone in their frustration."
Since 1990, The Campanile has published a list of seniors and their college, or other, destinations in its final issue each June. It plans to continue this year.
Campanile advisor Esther Wojcicki said the information is not provided by the Paly administration but collected student by student.
"Sometimes social-studies teachers will let the kids fill out a form that we make up," Wojcicki said.
"Some kids don't want to participate, and we honor that."
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